We sat on the judo mats in a small studio in downtown San Francisco surrounded by 20 other strangers in yoga clothes. Over the last few months, my husband and I had been exploring different ways of connecting physically and this class in Shibari, an ancient Japanese form of rope bondage, seemed full of possibilities.
After we settled in, the couple leading the class began with a short demonstration of him tying her arms together behind her back. It turns out there are certain places one might not want rope burn, so he emphasized the importance of pulling the rope slowly. He also talked about holding it with intention as rope under tension has better energy. The couple was the absolute picture of harmony with her receiving his adoration with all of her being, and him doling out his love in measured and deliberate motions.
Then it was our turn. With some seductive music floating through the studio, I sat with my legs crossed as my husband began the process of learning how to tie a hitch knot. I’m not going to sugar-coat this kiddos… we were NOT the picture of harmony. I tried to provide helpful feedback, “pull the rope more slowly here” or “hold it less taut there”, but the more direction I gave, the more frazzled he became.
It may be clear at this point in the story that trust in others is not one of my strengths. My default state is to plan, organize and direct in a very detailed way. I write down the exact brand and fat percentage of the ground turkey that I put on my grocery list. The concept of giving control to others or sitting back and receiving is not comfortable territory for me. Yet that was what I was being asked to do.
Fortunately for my frazzled husband, the instructors ended the exercise, telling us it was time for another demonstration. This was a free-form exploration where he worked rope after rope around her body, binding together various limbs with her torso. After she was fully bound, he reversed the process, with the same measured movements, slowly and beautifully unbinding her from her colorful cocoon.
Again, it was our turn to practice. This time, I tried to keep my mouth shut and trust that my partner could learn this new skill without my verbal feedback. Unexpectedly, it turned into a meditative experience for me. Since I was no longer talking, I was able to shut down the thinking part of my brain and tune into the music and the physical connection between myself, the rope and my husband.
Along the way, as I began to place trust in his actions, my husband seemed to be able to tune into my body and adjust accordingly. For instance, a small squirm from unpleasant tightness in the rope would result in loosening. A purr would result in a pleasant tightening. It felt counter-intuitive that by trusting him and providing less direct feedback that I was actually providing even better feedback, yet there we were.
In the months since our Shibari lesson, I’ve been able to notice when my control-freak self is getting in the way of some otherwise tantalizing scenes and can pause in that moment and ask myself “What if I were to let him continue on exactly the way he is right now?” And though I’m still demanding as ever in my grocery list, sometimes it now has things on it like 20 feet of red rope.
This blog reflects my real-life experiences. I'd love to hear about your experiences, so let’s continue the conversation in the comments section below.
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© Pam Costa, 2015